table of contents
SECTION I: Introduction Pg.3
About Youth Service America Pg.3
About the Semester of Service Strategy Guide Pg.4
Imagine a Semester of Service Pg.5
What is a “Semester of Service?” Pg.6
What is Service-Learning? Pg.7
Community Service, Service-Learning, and Semester of Service Pg.8-9
SECTION II: Preparing for a Semester of Service Pg.10
The Five Stages of Service-Learning Pg.11
K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice Pg.12-14
Charting YOUR Semester of Service Links to the Five Stages and the Standards Pg.15-16
What the Service-Learning Research Shows Pg.17
Meeting Academic, Curricular, and Learning Goals Pg.17
The Importance of Ongoing Reflection Pg.18
Youth Voice and the Educatorʼs Role Pg.19
You, Your Community, and Your Semester of Service Project Pg.20
Why a “Semester” of Service? Pg.21
Engaging a Diverse Group in Service Pg.22
Engaging Younger Children in Service (ages 5-12) Pg.23
SECTION III: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Pg.25
Making the Connection between Martin Luther King, Jr. and your Semester of Service Pg.25-26
Begin your Semester of Service with an MLK Focus Pg.27
SECTION IV: IPARD/C Pg.28
Stage One: Investigation Pg.29
Assessing the Community Need: Community Asset Mapping Pg.29-30
Gathering Information About a Community Need Pg.31-32
Identifying Possible Community Partners Pg.33
Engaging Students in Reaching Out to Community Partners Pg.34-35
Stage Two: Preparation and Planning Pg.36
Identify the Service and Learning Goals Pg.36
Linking Service to Curricular Standards/ Learning Goals: Some Examples Pg.37-38
Linking YOUR Semester of Service to Curricular Standards and Learning Goals Pg.39
Learning and Serving through a Semester of Service Pg.40
Sample Project Timeline Pg.41
Is this Project Doable? Pg.42-43
Stage Three: Action Pg.44
Organizing into Task Teams Pg.44
Working with Volunteers Pg.45
Gathering Resources Pg.46
Telling the Story: Publicity and Media Pg.47
Writing a Media Release Pg.48
Preparing to Speak to the Media Pg.49
Telling Your Story Via Social Media Pg.50
Engaging Elected Officials Pg.51
Reaching out to Elected Officials during your Semester of Service Pg.52-53
Stage Four: Reflection Pg.54
Reflection: Before, During, and After your Semester of Service Pg.55-56
Academic Content and the Reflection Connection Pg.57-58
Stage Five: Demonstration / Celebration Pg.59-60
After Your Semester of Service: Now What? Pg.61
Continuing Your Semester of Service Pg.62
SECTION V: ADDITIONAL RESOURCES Pg.63
Seasons of Service Calendar Pg.63-66
Annotated Resource List Pg.67-70
section I: introduction
about youth service america
Youth Service America (YSA) improves communities by increasing the number and the diversity of young people,
ages 5-25, serving in substantive roles. Founded in 1986, YSA supports a global culture of engaged youth committed to
a lifetime of service, learning, leadership, and achievement. To learn more, visit www.YSA.org.
YSAʼs goals are to:
Engage children and youth as volunteers, as academic achievers, and as community leaders.
Educate young people, teachers, community organizations, media, and public officials in the power
of youth as problem solvers.
YSA programs and resources that support a Semester of Service include:
Global Youth Service Day (GYSD), an annual campaign that celebrates and mobilizes the millions of children and youth
who improve their communities each day of the year through service and service-learning. Established in 1988, GYSD is the
largest service event in the world and is now celebrated in over 100 countries. To learn more, visit www.GYSD.org.
GoToServiceLearning.org, a new YSA web-based resource featuring best-practice service-learning lesson plans developed
and piloted by service-learning teachers and their students. GoToServiceLearning.org enables you to use search categories
to find service-learning examples in specific curricular areas to assist you in your own planning, and provide you with practical
ideas and additional resources. Visit www.GoToServiceLearning.org.
Get Ur Good On, an online network of youth supporting each other in their mission to do “good” in their communities.
Founded by Miley Cyrus in 2009, Get UR Good On engages celebrities, multimedia platforms, special events, and
opportunities for grants and awards for children and youth. To join this online community, visit www.GetUrGoodOn.org.
Grants and Awards, to support and motivate youth, educators, service-learning coordinators, and community-based
organizations for service and service-learning initiatives.
Resources, free materials updated annually, including project planning guides, tip sheets, and talking points that support
service and service-learning. Available online, examples include: Global Youth Service Day Planning Tool Kit, and
First Responders: Youth Addressing Childhood Obesity Through Service-Learning.
National Service Briefing (NSB), a weekly email publication highlighting up-to-date information such as effective
practices, funding, awards, legislation, corporate initiatives, and calendar events. To sign up, visit www.YSA.org.
about the semester of service strategy guide
The Semester of Service Strategy Guide was developed to help teachers and others working with youth to develop and
implement a high-impact, strategic plan of action to engage young people in serving and learning in their communities.
Semester-long service-learning projects that include research, planning, action, relationship-building, leadership development,
reflection, and opportunities for young people to share what they have done and learned will enable them to commit to solving
some of the most important and challenging issues facing our world.
Using this strategy guide, you will be able to guide youth through a semester of service-learning that includes at least 70 hours
of youth engagement with:
authentic, sustainable, and long-term service goals designed to make a significant community impact; and
related, intentional academic or curricular goals designed to help young people learn.
The activities introduced in this guide are suggestions; YSA hopes that you will find some or all of them useful to your own
planning process. They have been designed to help you align your project planning with the K-12 Service-Learning Standards
for Quality Practice, and to help you assess your development as a service-learning practitioner. YSA recommends that you
use this Semester of Service Strategy Guide as a companion to the Semester of Service Planning Calendar and Poster
(available at www.semesterofservice.org), and the Global Youth Service Day Toolkit (available at www.GYSD.org).
The YSA staff is ready to consult with you, to help you apply the model and standards to your program;
please contact us at semester@YSA.org.
Educator/Facilitator Pages, and Student/Children/Youth Pages
In the preparation of this guide, Youth Service America addresses two audiences: educators, and students.
Educator/Facilitator pages are marked with a book, and include background materials, research-based commentary,
and teaching strategies. Use these pages to guide the development of your lesson plans for your Semester of Service.
Student/Children/Youth pages are marked with a pencil, and include planning pages and tip sheets designed especially
for student use. Reproduce these pages to give to your students to help them meet the various learning and service
goals of their Semester of Service.
In the preparation of this guide, Youth Service America gratefully acknowledges contributions from Shelley Billig, Cathryn Berger Kaye,
Kate McPherson, and a wonderful group of YSA grantees and excellent service-learning practitioners whose examples appear throughout.
imagine a semester of service...
The Yvonne Learning Center in Little Haiti, Florida serves a small population of predominantly Haitian American K-12
students. Supported by a service-learning grant from Youth Service America, 40 students at the center launched a semester-long
service-learning program on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, 2009 by planting a vegetable garden. Over the course of their
Semester of Service, the students worked with an AmeriCorps Vista volunteer, tending to their garden and watching it flourish.
They became advocates and educators, as they learned about agriculture, the environment, and healthy eating, and shared
what they were learning with their peers at the school. The students celebrated their garden on Global Youth Service Day in April.
The school was so pleased with the outcomes of the experience that they planned a larger landscaping project for the following
school year, turning their entire campus into a learning lab.
Students in a special education program at Northeast Middle School in St. Paul, Minnesota, volunteered at Feed My
Starving Children, an organization that ships meals to more than 60 countries around the world. The students became so excited
about their efforts to help their community, that they approached their teachers and asked what more they could do. The schoolʼs
service-learning coordinator engaged the students in a Semester of Service, during which they created “Project Save A Life”.
Students studied poverty in America and abroad, learning about culture and the economic challenges affecting many all over
the world. They organized fundraisers to raise money for Feed My Starving Children. They created their own brochures about
poverty and hunger to teach their peers, families, and teachers about these issues, giving them the opportunity to get involved
as well. Learning and serving throughout the semester, these students made a significant impact on the global community.
what is a “semester of service?”
Share this information with administrators, teachers, parents and community partners, to build support for your
Semester of Service project.
Youth Service Americaʼs Semester of Service links prominent national service events - such as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of
Service and Global Youth Service Day - through an extended service-learning framework of at least 70 hours. Young people ages
5-25 spend the “semester” addressing a meaningful community need connected to intentional learning goals and/or academic
standards. Throughout, the teacher or facilitator supports the emergence of “youth voice” as young people guide the process.
YSA provides Semester of Service school-based and community-based participants with tools, resources, and support through
grants, planning guides, training and technical assistance, and ongoing consultation.
Youth Service America (YSA) encourages you to launch your Semester of Service project on Martin Luther King Day of Service
(MLK) (January 18, 2010) and culminate or celebrate your efforts on Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) (April 23-25, 2010).
Consider recognizing other program-relevant periods as teaching moments to enhance your issues-based learning and service
activities. Other dates to keep in mind include African American History Month, Womenʼs History Month, Read Across America
Day, César Chávez Day, World Health Day, Earth Day, and Malaria Day. Or, you could add in other national days of service to
plan a fall “semester” or to extend your Semester of Service year-round, by including the September 11 National Day of Service
and Remembrance, National Make a Difference Day, and Family Volunteer Day. For more dates and ideas, please see the
Seasons of Service Calendar in the Additional Resources section of this guide, on pages 63-66.
what is service-learning?
Service-learning is a teaching and learning strategy integrating meaningful service
with academic study and reflective practice to enrich learning, build civic engagement,
and strengthen communities.
Why is service-learning important?
Engaging young people in activities they find especially relevant, service-learning supports student learning, achievement, and
workplace readiness, as youth work to improve communities. While service-learning can happen in a school or organizational
setting, authentic service-learning must provide links to academic content, standards, and/or learning outcomes. When it is
implemented within a school setting, service-learning has the potential “to address each of the underlying causes of low
graduation rates, while incorporating the strategies most recommended for preventing students from dropping out.” 1
What does service-learning look like?
Service-learning projects can involve direct action, indirect action, or advocacy:
Direct Service: students respond to a community need by interacting with and impacting the service recipient or site
(for example, students prepare food for people in need)
Indirect Service: students build infrastructure or capacity to respond to the community need (for example, students pack
food boxes at the local Food Bank)
Research and Advocacy Service: students find, gather and report on information to raise awareness of a problem
and/or advocate for change in the condition underlying the community need (for example, students meet with elected
officials to urge support for additional food subsidy for low-income families)
Bridgeland, John M., John J. DiIulio, Jr. and Stuart C. Wulsin, Engaged for Success: Service-Learning as a Tool for High School Dropout
Prevention. Civic Enterprises in association with Peter D. Hart Research Associates for the National Conference on Citizenship, April 2008.
community service, service-learning, and semester of service
“Community service is the highest calling that any child or adolescent can answer while growing up. It establishes the young
personʼs place in the world, gives a sense of value and efficacy beyond the immediate family, and bestows power that only
comes from being an actor and not a recipient.
Through service-learning, such service is combined with intentional learning. Young people begin to find their authentic voice
on a particular issue, giving them the integrity to take action in new ways, and asking them to consider their impact through the
process of reflection.
The vast majority of times, this process of service-learning will stimulate the classic question, “whatʼs next?” and drive them to
deepen their relationship and commitment to solving the problem. In a Semester of Service, service-learning students tackle
an issue that is important to them, and do so with intensity and duration over weeks and months. The framework of Martin
Luther King, Jr. Day and Global Youth Service Day adds reinforcement that the students are part of a larger, historical move-
ment of social justice, with young people around the world leading the way.”
– Steve Culbertson, President and CEO, Youth Service America
To facilitate the development of a shared vision for the Semester of Service, it is important that all participants – students, teachers,
administrators, community partners, and parents – share a common understanding of the language and terminology of community
service, service-learning, and Semester of Service.
Young people are asked to prepare and serve a meal at a local homeless shelter.
The community service activity:
responds to a community need
is most often structured as a single event or day of service
may or may not involve young people in the planning
does not provide an intentional reflective element
can be seen as a gateway opportunity that can lead to a lifetime of service
Youth research homelessness in their community and contact local homeless shelters and organizations to learn about what
services they provide. They decide together on a service project, and begin to plan and prepare a meal that they will serve at
a local homeless shelter. During the process, they meet social studies, mathematics, health and language arts academic or
curricular goals. Throughout the project, students reflect on their experiences.
At the conclusion of the project, students write poems describing what they have learned and share the poems with the residents
of the shelter. They conclude by discussing possible “next steps,” ways in which they could bring added attention to the issue
The service-learning project:
includes an investigative process to identify a meaningful service
provides intentional connections to academic learning
incorporates opportunities for reflection throughout
involves young people in the planning process to encourage “youth voice”
Semester of Service:
Students research homelessness in their community and contact local homeless shelters and organizations to learn about what
services they provide. They decide together on planning and implementing an ongoing service or a series of services. Intentionally
using math skills, they prepare and serve a monthly meal at a local homeless shelter. They collaborate with the residents to start a
board game night at the shelter. Becoming aware of additional community needs, youth solicit donations of toiletries for emergency
care packets, developing their skills in persuasive writing in the process.
Throughout, students reflect on their experiences with one another, with the shelter residents and staff. At the conclusion of the
project, students host a dinner for the residents of the shelter and the community-at-large to share what they have learned
throughout their Semester of Service. Youth recite poems and perform skits demonstrating the impact of their experience.
Students invite the media and local public officials to the event, hoping to bring added visibility to their efforts as they work towards
a larger goal of reducing homelessness in the community.
A Semester of Service:
supports extended, ongoing, meaningful service, learning, and reflective activities that intensify all levels of the
provides enough time to nurture significant change or impact in both the student and the community
When students have sufficient time to develop the skills needed to implement and plan the project and to process and internalize
their experiences through ongoing reflection, the service-learning project will have a significant impact on the students and the
community. The Semester of Service framework will enable you and your students to extend a service project into a strategic
plan of action with the goal of sustainable change.
section II: preparing for a semester of service
quality makes a difference!
This section of the Semester of Service Strategy Guide presents a number of basic resource tools that will enhance your
preparations for your Semester of Service:
The Five Stages of Service Learning presents a proven service-learning implementation process model (see page 11).
This model – also known as the IPARD/C model – guides your Semester of Service planning through the
Preparation and Planning
The K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice are best practices based on recent research, and
incorporate a set of eight standards and respective indicators (see page 12).
Planning and implementing the service-learning project over the course of a semester ensures that you and your students
have sufficient time to work through each stage of the service-learning process (IPARD/C) thoroughly, while meeting the
K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice.
To monitor your progress through the stages and standards, you may also want to use the charts on pages 15 and 16.
The YSA staff is ready to consult with you, to help you apply the model and standards to your program.
Tips to engage youth voice and involve young people in the identification, planning and development of the
Semester of Service follow, on pages 19-20.
Helpful suggestions in engaging a diverse group of youth in your Semester of Service are in this section, on page 22.
A reminder that service-learning is equally appropriate for younger children, tips for reaching out to engage children,
ages 5-12, are outlined on page 23.
Browse through a series of tested service-learning lesson plans housed at www.GoToServiceLearning.org and introduced
at the end of this section.
1. Service-learning reflection includes a variety of verbal, written, artistic, and nonverbal activities to demonstrate
understanding and changes in participantsʼ knowledge, skills, and/or attitudes.
2. Service-learning reflection occurs before, during, and after the service experience.
3. Service-learning reflection prompts participants to think deeply about complex community problems and alternative
4. Service-learning reflection encourages participants to examine their preconceptions and assumptions in order to
explore and understand their roles and responsibilities as citizens.
5. Service-learning reflection encourages participants to examine a variety of social and civic issues related to their
service-learning experience so that participants understand connections to public policy and civic life.
Service-learning promotes understanding of diversity and mutual respect among all participants.
1. Service-learning helps participants identify and analyze different points of view to gain understanding of multiple
2. Service-learning helps participants develop interpersonal skills in conflict resolution and group decision-making.
3. Service-learning helps participants actively seek to understand and value the diverse backgrounds and perspectives
of those offering and receiving service.
4. Service-learning encourages participants to recognize and overcome stereotypes.
Service-learning provides youth with a strong voice in planning, implementing, and evaluating service-learning experiences with
guidance from adults.
1. Service-learning engages youth in generating ideas during the planning, implementation, and evaluation processes.
2. Service-learning involves youth in the decision-making process throughout the service-learning experiences.
3. Service-learning involves youth and adults in creating an environment that supports trust and open expression of ideas.
4. Service-learning promotes acquisition of knowledge and skills to enhance youth leadership and decision-making.
5. Service-learning involves youth in evaluating the quality and effectiveness of the service-learning experience.
Service-learning partnerships are collaborative, mutually beneficial, and address community needs.
1. Service-learning involves a variety of partners, including youth, educators, families, community members,
community-based organizations, and/or businesses.
2. Service-learning partnerships are characterized by frequent and regular communication to keep all partners
well-informed about activities and progress.
3. Service-learning partners collaborate to establish a shared vision and set common goals to address community needs.
4. Service-learning partners collaboratively develop and implement action plans to meet specified goals.
5. Service-learning partners share knowledge and understanding of school and community assets and needs, and view
each other as valued resources.
Service-learning engages participants in an ongoing process to assess the quality of implementation and progress toward meeting
specified goals, and uses results for improvement and sustainability.
1. Service-learning participants collect evidence of progress toward meeting specific service goals and learning outcomes
from multiple sources throughout the service-learning experience.
2. Service-learning participants collect evidence of the quality of service-learning implementation from multiple sources
throughout the service-learning experience.
3. Service-learning participants use evidence to improve service-learning experiences.
4. Service-learning participants communicate evidence of progress toward goals and outcomes with the broader
community, including policy-makers and education leaders, to deepen service-learning understanding and ensure
that high quality practices are sustained.
Duration and Intensity
Service-learning has sufficient duration and intensity to address community needs and meet specified outcomes.
1. Service-learning experiences include the processes of investigating community needs, preparing for service, action,
reflection, demonstration of learning and impacts, and celebration.
2. Service-learning is conducted during concentrated blocks of time across a period of several weeks or months.
3. Service-learning experiences provide enough time to address identified community needs and achieve
Charting YOUR Service-Learning Project Links to the Five Stages and the Standards
Use the chart to record your Semester of Service activities meeting each of the Five Stages and the K-12 Service-Learning Standards:
Pre-SOS Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6
Five Stages of Service-Learning
K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice
Charting YOUR Service-Learning Project Links to the Five Stages and the Standards
Use the chart to record your Semester of Service activities meeting each of the Five Stages and the K-12 Service-Learning Standards:
Week 7 Week 8 Week 9 Week 10 Week 11 Week 12 Week 13
Five Stages of Service-Learning
K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice
the importance of ongoing reflection
Structured reflection helps youth acknowledge the connections between their service-learning experiences, the academic
content and their personal goals. Students are given the time to think about how they relate to the community need they identify,
the actions they undertake, the impact they are able to effect in the community and how they can be change agents, and the
effectiveness of their service and learning activities.
Reflection is both a stage amongst the Five Stages of Service-Learning, and one of the eight K-12 Service-Learning Standards
for Quality Practice. Service-learning research indicates that good reflection activities are continuous, connected, guided, allow
feedback and assessment, and help to clarify student values . 6
Youth Service America recommends that throughout your Semester of Service, you incorporate a wide variety of reflection
activities and opportunities to accommodate differential student learning styles. If students are asked to create an ongoing
journal of their experience, be sure to also introduce other ways to reflect that involve art, or drama, or other formal and
informal communication or presentation techniques. In this Strategy Guide, you will find suggested topics for reflection at the
end of each stage of the IPARD/C model, and a variety of suggested activities in the Reflection section, beginning on page 54.
We firmly believe that it is through reflection that students will tie the service to the learning. It is in this process that they will
experience the "ah ha" moment and realize that they are already affecting positive change in their community. Reflection
allows for double loop learning -- when students find out how they learn.
We include reflection in three different ways. First, we conduct a "teach back" at the end of each learning session. The
teach back is designed so the students can "teach back" what they have learned during discussions and project activities.
We are also asking each middle school student to keep a journal that is personal to them. We have a small block of time for
the students to write in their journals either on a topic or relatable question on the topic of hunger and homelessness that we
prompt. We also ask the students to reflect on something they have read or an activity they have participated in.”
“Food Pantries,” UMASS Dartmouth, North Dartmouth, Massachusetts
RMC Research Corporation. K-12 Service-Learning Project Planning Toolkit. Scotts Valley, CA: National Service-Learning Clearinghouse,
youth voice and the educatorʼs role
Research also suggests that intentional design and implementation matter if students are to achieve specified learning gains
through their service-learning experiences. Curriculum content as well as service-learning activities must be organized around
the desired learning. . . .
A service-learning projectʼs design must also take into account that how students develop and carry out a project
can have as significant an impact on their developing civic participation skills as what they actually do to serve. In
other words, studentsʼ civic skills grow when their service-learning activities involve decision-making, leadership,
and team-work opportunities.
Shelley H. Billig, “Research Matters” 7
Youth voice is not only an essential component of high-quality service-learning programs, but also helps to magnify positive results.
Throughout service-learning, it is important to engage youth and children as planners. This means wherever it is feasible - in the
project selection, planning, problem-solving, or evaluation - solicit their input. The more young people feel engaged, the more buy-
in they will have, and the more successful the project will be. It is important to remember that students also have a “learning curve”
with service-learning; the more they do it, the better they will be at it.
Youth Service America suggests that you start with the studentʼs perspective of his/her community and develop project connections
that draw directly from the studentʼs experience. You may want to use the guiding questions on the following page to help you
engage young people in thinking about needs, priorities, and ways that they could make a difference in their community, through
their Semester of Service project.
“SAVE-US was founded by Dominique and Donovan Norris (then 16-year-olds) for the 2008 Global Youth Service Day. We
organized a rally against domestic violence and child abuse. Then we developed our mission and vision statement and
requested to be approved as a school club. After being approved, we began to recruit members from amongst our friends
and other students.
According to school rules we needed an adult sponsor who is a school staff member, so we asked our school counselor who
agreed to act as our sponsor. However, she has no responsibilities except to assure that we adhere to school rules. The
officers set the agendas and developed the strategic plan for this year. Our committees are made up of 5 to 8 students who
research and brainstorm ideas and create their campaigns led by their student co-chairs. The entire campaign is carried
out by students. We have a student committee to develop a website and a committee for contacting community leaders
and collaboration partners…We are the youth voice of the community.”
“SAVE-US”, Georgetown, KY
Shelley H. Billig, “Research Matters.” Talk It Up: Advocating for Service-Learning: Issue 8, p. 2. Reprinted with permission of the National
Service-Learning Partnership, http://www.service-learningpartnership.org
you, your community, and your semester of service project
Use the following questions to help you think about your relationship to your community, its needs and priorities, and how
you might make a difference through a Semester of Service project:
What would you define as “your community”?
Is it your school, your neighborhood, your city?
How would you describe it?
How do you feel about your connection to your community?
Connected? Unconcerned? Needed? Useful? Ignored?
Why do you feel that way?
How do you think you will you know when the community values your input?
And, how do you think you might feel?
What things about your community make you sad, disappointed, frustrated or even angry?
How might your neighborhood, school or community be a better place?
What do you think that YOU could do to change this for the better?
What important question or need can you address? What issue do you feel the most strongly about?
What legacy might you like to leave in your school or community? 8
Adapted from Susan Abravanel, Keisha Edwards and Kate McPherson, 2006.
engaging younger children in service (ages 5-12)
The level of youth engagement is a powerful predictor of adults who serve: the propensity to volunteer, the propensity to give,
even the amount one gives.14 Here are some guidelines and recommendations for engaging younger children in service:
ASSIGN significant tasks
Think about which tasks must absolutely be done by an adult (driving the bus to the project site) and which tasks children have the
skills and ability to do (calling the project site to confirm date and time). Children who are assigned tasks that are often done by
adults take on new responsibilities that can help them acquire new skills, particularly skills that meet academic standards.
Focus on providing guidance and opportunities for children to role-play and practice the skills.
LISTEN respectfully and without judgment
Children think differently, manage time differently, and pay attention to different things than adults. If some service project ideas
or opinions seem outrageous or unfeasible, listen carefully, ask questions, explain, and propose ways to make their ideas doable.
ACKNOWLEDGE childrenʼs work
Plan to include special ways of acknowledging young childrenʼs contributions and efforts. Both private and public
acknowledgement are important to children and also increase public awareness of their capabilities and accomplishments.
CONSULT with the kids
Do not assume that your decision or idea is what would work best.
QUESTION liability concerns
Safety issues are a priority for all volunteers – but at times, liability risks are posed as a barrier to even consider the inclusion
of children in service projects. Adapt the project so that younger volunteers can participate. Consider the different aspects or
phases of your project and all the needs. For example, if children are not admitted in a pediatric hospital ward, they could focus
their service on the young patientsʼ siblings who also need cheering up and attention.
ACCEPT that a project may not go exactly as if you or another adult had done it
Sometimes the plants are not exactly aligned in the ground or there may be three toothbrushes in some care packets but no
soap. Recognize that these are efforts that can be corrected if needed, but nothing can replace the benefits of younger children
participating in significant, meaningful ways.
AMAZE yourself and others by what elementary school-age children can do
Give children opportunities to apply their skills and guide them to solve real problems. They will deliver!
Examples of young children engaged in service:
In Barra Mansa, Brazil, children starting at 9 years old help local officials make decisions on how to use portions of
their municipal budget
Youth Courts across the United States involve children as young as 8 in an alternative peer justice system with
At the childrenʼs recommendation, the Porsgrunn City Council in Norway chose to install a speed bump rather than
a traffic light at an intersection close to their school: it met the childrenʼs needs for a safer crossing area and had a
Independent Sector. Giving and Volunteering in the United States: Engaging Youth in Lifelong Service. Washington D.C, 2002.
“What does a good service-learning lesson
plan look like?”
“Where do I begin?”
Responding to these questions, YSA presents
GoToServiceLearning.org, a new interactive
web-based resource housing a database of best-
practice service-learning lesson plans, developed
by experienced service-learning teachers and their
students across the United States.
GoToServiceLearning.org enables you to use multiple
search parameters to find service-learning examples
according to specific curricular areas, themes, grade levels, and duration of the project. Designed to assist you in your own
planning with youth, each detailed lesson plan includes connections to standards and learning goals, as well as the “story”
behind the project: how students became interested in the issue, and lessons learned throughout the process by the teacher.
Visit the site as you plan your own Semester of Service service-learning experience. See what experienced service-learning
practitioners are doing, pick up a lesson or two to try out in your own classroom, and then return to the site to post and share
your own best practice experience.
GoToServiceLearning.org is the result of a wonderful collaboration between organizations (Youth Service America, Americaʼs
Promise Alliance and the State Farm Companies Foundation) and individuals. Youth Service America continues to work
closely in its development with international service-learning expert and consultant, Cathryn Berger Kaye of CBK Associates,
and with an ever-increasing number of excellent teachers across the country who have posted their experiences as resources
for the site. 15
Youth Service America also adds a special thank you to Americaʼs Promise Alliance and the State Farm Companies Foundation, and to
mcCausland and Jeff Havens, who spent hours coordinating the many pieces on the initial design of the GoToServiceLearning.org site
because they want to share their passion for service-learning with every teacher in America.
Section III: Martin Luther King, Jr.
Making the Connection between
Martin Luther King, Jr.
and your Semester of Service
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to
Global Youth Service Day
(January 18, 2010 – April 23-25, 2010)
"Martin Luther King was interested in big results not the short-term. So, the idea of King Day being the signal for a long-term
commitment by millions of students over a semester would have warmed his heart. . .Martin always asked us to do more than
we were doing because the road ahead was still so long. . .The Mountain to climb was still so tall. The Semester of Service is
just that opportunity to do more."
Former Senator Harris Wofford, Colleague and Lawyer of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. believed in the power and potential of individuals working together to pursue the common purpose of
creating a more just world. He believed in developing ideas and turning them into action. He supported and worked with youth
on issues that were relevant to their lives, such as school integration and voting rights.
Youth Service America suggests that you introduce youth to the writings and sayings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as inspiration
for their Semester of Service. You will note that each of the Five Stages of Service-Learning in the next section of this guide will
feature one of his quotes to help you and your students implement his legacy, work together to create a more just world, and
apply his ideas to address significant needs of your community while increasing knowledge and learning.
“What are you doing for others?”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Through service on MLK Day and throughout your Semester of Service, you can strengthen communities, empower individuals
and build bridges of understanding. The following are examples of how these themes of MLK Day apply to each of the five stages
of your Semester of Service:
Utilize the power of service to improve communities.
Preparation and Planning: “I have a dream . . .”
What is the studentʼs dream for the community? How do their dreams compare to Dr. Martin Luther Kingʼs vision?
Students can research the history of the Individuals with Disabilities Act and then work with their local Parks Department
and people with disabilities to modify an existing community garden or park – or to create a new garden made accessible
to all by constructing and installing ramps at strategic locations.
Believe in each personʼs ability to make a significant difference.
Students can interview individuals who have overcome significant personal challenges or systemic injustices, and then
prepare memory books to present to the individual, as well as to the local historical society or public library.
“Everybody is great because everybody can serve.” Throughout the project, students take photos of moments that
exemplify this Martin Luther King, Jr. quote. After the project, students create plans for how they will continue to serve
Focus on similarities amongst people and serve together.
Interview and survey community members to find out about community priorities and needs.
Students and the recipients of service interview one another to learn about the impact of the service project; together,
they write and publish articles in the school and local newspapers, and in community partner newsletters.
For more ideas on connecting your Semester of Service to MLK Day themes, please visit
begin your semester of service with an MLK focus
Read MLKʼs “I Have a Dream” speech. Create a visual or write an essay
detailing the dream you have for your community.
“Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.” On MLK Day,
take photos of moments that exemplify this quote. Post your photos at
Get Ur Good On: www.GetUrGoodOn.org
Create a theme for your Semester of Service that focuses on MLKʼs
values. Gather your Semester of Service team/class together and
discuss the activities that you will do as a result of this theme.
Honor local heroes who have overcome personal challenges or systemic injustices. Create memory books detailing
their journey and present the books to the local historical society or public library.
Participate in a service project. Search the United We Serve database to find a volunteer opportunity in your
Promote MLK Day by posting fliers, posters and ads in your school and community centers. Free promotional
materials are available at http://www.mlkday.gov/marketing/posters/index.asp
Read MLKʼs “The Drum Major Instinct” speech
Who is someone you know who embodies MLKʼs definition of greatness?
Ask your friends, family members, and neighbors to volunteer with you on MLK Day.
Raise awareness and recruit volunteers by registering your project at www.YSA.org/mlkday.
Submit a press release to your local paper announcing the launch of your Semester of Service.
Post a blog about MLK at http://www.semesterofservice.org/
Interview community members (parents, teachers, neighbors) to learn more about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
How did MLK impact their lives?
Post a video or blog about MLK at Get Ur Good On: www.GetUrGoodOn.org
section IV: IPARD/C - semester of service
Semester of Service links prominent national service events - such as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service and Global
Youth Service Day - through an extended service-learning framework of at least 70 hours. Young people ages 5-25, spend
the “semester” addressing a meaningful community need connected to intentional learning goals and/or academic standards.
Throughout, the teacher or facilitator supports the emergence of “youth voice” as young people guide the process.
Semester of Service emphasizes “duration and intensity”, enriching the experience by providing participants with enough time
to incorporate the five stages of service-learning presented below.
The following is designed as a guide for participating youth:
Investigation: Identify a local, national, or global need you would like to address
In order to: Assess the Identify possible Establish a baseline
community need community partners
You could: • Design and administer a • Visit a nonprofit organization or • Collect evidence of the
survey of your peers agency responding to the “before” status of the need
• Take an exploratory walk need you identify you will address
around the neighborhood • Invite an expert to talk to you
• Conduct research using • Identify possible other
various media stakeholders in your issue
• Consider Martin Luther Kingʼs
values and how they might
inspire your selection of a need
Preparation and Planning: Develop a strategy for change and a common vision for success
In order to: Identify the service and learning goals Create your action plan
You could: • Decide what impact you want to make on the • Develop a timeline for your Semester of Service
community need and add it to the calendar
• Investigate your learning goals and how they • Determine individual roles and responsibilities
connect to your service activity • Plan your outreach to a diverse group of participants
Action: Implement the service activity to make a difference
In order to: Document your activity
You could: • Take photographs to use in a “before and after” photo collage
• Record what you are doing to develop the story of your Semester of Service
• Invite the media to your activity
Reflection: Think about how your service and learning relate to you, your community, and your future
In order to: Reflect before, during and after your service and learning
You could: • Plan a forum to discuss how things are going, and what you might want to do differently
• After your Semester of Service, share in small groups how you changed the community,
and how you changed yourself
• Design a photo collage that features the Martin Luther King, Jr. values relating to your learning
and service activities
• Think about what you will do after your Semester of Service
Demonstration/Celebration: Showcase your results and celebrate your outcomes
In order to: Share what you have done and what you have learned
You could: • Use technology to create a web scrapbook
• Create a video to tell the story
• Share your stories at www.SemesterofService.org
• Present your learning and community impact to elected and public officials
28 • Join with your community partners to celebrate your success, and plan for your next Semester of Service
stage one: investigation
assessing the community need
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed . . . ”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Community Asset Mapping
Use either this activity, or the following one (“Gathering Information About a Community Need”) to help you decide what resources
are in your community, and what need you will address in your Semester of Service:
Community mapping provides a way to identify community assets 16 and needs – an important first step in identifying projects
that work towards community change. Identifying the assets and needs that a community has will guide you to service-learning
1. In your Semester of Service project team, discuss and record the individual assets that each of you possess.
What do you feel you can do really well that you can teach or share with your community members?
Count the number of assets your group possesses and then find out how many assets your class as a whole possesses.
2. As an entire class, discuss what makes the place where you live, go to school, and play into a community.
Identify and select the community that will be the focus of your service-learning project. (For example, the community
could be the school, the school plus a five block radius, or the city where you live.)
Note what is positive and good about your community – what works well? – and talk about how that might help you
respond to your issue.
3. Use one or more of the strategies below to identify:
a. the communityʼs assets: the skills and resources (including physical places) present in the community;
b. the communityʼs needs and priorities.
Walk around the selected community to observe and document assets and needs. Take pictures and notes to record
pre-project (“before”) conditions.
Interview community members.
Survey community members.
Read the newspaper.
Do research about your selected community on the Internet.
“Community Assets” are the human, material, financial, and other resources that are already in use or available in your community.
4. Using the Community Assets chart on this page, record the identified assets and then complete column 1
(“What do you see?”) of the Community Needs and Priorities chart. Try to think of at least 4 items for each column.
People Economic Faith-Based Formal & Informal
& & Education Political or Associations &
Relationships Business Religious Groups
Community Needs and Priorities
What do you see? What would you like to see instead? What community and personal assets
can be used to address this need?
The Problem Your Solution* Your Project
5. Individually, complete columns 2 (“What would you like to see instead?”) and 3 (“What community and personal assets can be
used to address this need?”) of the Community Needs and Priorities chart.
6. As a class discuss, how can you work together with your community* and use your assets to help the community
achieve its goals?
The Green Crew began investigating Foster Heights' need for an organized and committed group to tend the park through
their previous work there. In 2009, the crew cleaned graffiti from the park on four separate occasions, which led them to the
realization the park needed vigilant attention. Despite Foster Heights' condition, every time crew members arrived to remove
graffiti they saw young children enjoying this hidden pocket of nature in Hartford's concrete landscape. Upon further
investigation, Knox staff and crew members learned from the children's parents how important Foster Heights is to their
community and their children's lives. The contrast of repeated vandalism against the community's obvious need and desire
for the park made the Green Crew realize that Foster Heights, while often harmed by a small number of individuals, is
important to and valued by far more members of the community.”
“Knox Parks AmeriCorps Green Crew Park Adoption”, Knox Park Foundation, Hartford, Connecticut
* Encourage students to share their proposed solutions with community adults, who can guide student observations based on community priorities.
A survey can help you find out what people know or think about a topic and get ideas for helping. Who could you survey –
students, family members, neighbors? How many surveys would you want to have completed? Write three survey questions.
Who to survey: How many surveys:
Questions for the survey:
4. Observation and Experience
What ways are there to gather information through your own observation and experience? Where would you go? What would you
do there? How would you keep track of what you find out?
Share your ideas. Make a plan for gathering information in the four ways just discussed. If you are working in small groups,
each group may want to involve people in other groups. For example, everyone could help conduct the survey and collect
“Each student presented an issue to the group and explained its significance in our community. Then the group prioritized their
top four, and split into small groups to look at each issue more closely. Each small group created a poster with the root causes
of their issue and possible solutions, then rotated, so each group got to work on each poster. Looking at their posters, students
realized that not only was underage drinking one of their four top priorities, it contributed to their other issues (driving while im-
paired, domestic/partner abuse, and suicide.) They came to a consensus to focus on underage drinking, and tie in connections
to address their other issues.
Afterwards students looked at a state study to find more information about how widespread underage drinking is. They found
the rates of underage drinking by grade level over the last three surveys and made some conclusions about whether the rate is
changing…Overall, at the last survey, kids found that nearly half of seniors in our area had drunk 5 or more drinks in a row, or
had ridden with someone who had been drinking. Almost a quarter of seniors said that they had driven after drinking…Students
will use this information to guide the design of their individual projects.”
“Safe & Healthy Eureka”, Eureka School District #13 ,Eureka, Montana
identifying possible community partners
The most successful – and sustainable - service-learning experiences engage community partners early on in the process.
Community partners are organizations, agencies, and other entities –for example, the local food bank, or parks department,
or homeless shelter – who facilitates the service-learning experience by providing a site or focus for student service, thereby
connecting young people with identified community needs and priorities . The following suggestions, compiled by community
partners, can help you bring partners into your Semester of Service:
Before your initial approach, do some research about the partner – know its mission, specific goals, policies, etc.
Most will have this posted on a web site.
Community partners appreciate being included in the planning process. A face-to-face planning meeting makes all the
difference – and helps with the development of trust.
Be explicit and clear about your goals and expectations for the partnership. What will you provide to the organization?
What will you hope that they can provide to you?
If you have specific elements that must be included in the project, mention those up front to the organization. Partners
may need to adjust their expectations of the amount of work done, for example, if they learn that you will need time for
students to do an on-site reflection piece or journal entry.
Look to your partner as a resource for your academic goals as well. Because partners are so familiar with the elements
of the service component, they may be able to provide you with suggested opportunities for making good academic
Be organized about your dates – and make sure to give your community partner plenty of advanced notice. The more
notice the partner gets, the better it will be able to accommodate working with you.
Communicate roles clearly. Be explicit, both about the partnership and about the process. The partner will especially
need to know about project leadership –will you want students to lead? Be clear, too, about follow-up to meetings -
who calls whom next?
Not all community-based organizations/agencies have a full-time volunteer coordinator – and MOST do not have staff
dedicated to working with students. Do not make assumptions that your community partner will understand how your
school functions, your school schedule, etc. Especially note any “barriers” – such as types of work that students should
not be doing, limitations on time and schedule.
Always come through on your time commitment to the partner – this includes arriving on time, and staying through the time
allotment you discussed in advance. The partner will plan a workload dependent upon the number of anticipated volun
teers and the amount of time available. Note that some organizations may need to find replacements for late volunteers.
Be sure to provide enough adults to supervise the student group. Ask the partner for a suggested adult/student ratio, and
be prepared to make suggestions based on your schoolʼs protocols or requirements. Do not assume that the organization
will provide staff (or volunteers) to fulfill that ratio – clarify, and confirm, staffing and supervision early in the process. Do not
show up with a group that you know is larger than the partnerʼs recommended maximum group size, hoping that once you
are on site, the partner wonʼt turn anyone away.
Itʼs especially appreciated if students send copies of written student reflections or “thank youʼs” to the organizations they
partner with. Partners can use these to attract support from current and future donors, increasing their potential to provide
you with future opportunities.
engaging students in reaching out to community partners
Students demonstrate the importance of youth voice in the following suggested process:
Introduce students to local organization or agency partners
Present students with a list of – or have them research on their own – possible community partners. Ask students to identify
two or three whom they would like to know more about, and possibly work with.
What would you like to know?
Have students develop a list of questions that they would have about the partner – what they would like to know about the
organization/agency - and write it up as a survey to be presented to the partner.
The following are suggested "starter" questions that students might have about agencies or organizations, as they begin the
process of developing a partnership for their Semester of Service:
What is the purpose of the agency/organization?
How does it contribute to the life of our community?
What is the history of the organization – how, when, and why did it get started?
What kind of organization is it?
Nonprofit (independent sector)? For profit (private sector)? Civic (public sector)?
Who makes the important decisions for the agency/organization?
What public policies shape or influence its work?
What is its vision for the future?
How is it funded?
What programs does it offer?
Why did it choose to focus on those programs?
How do volunteers participate in this organization?
Are young people involved with the organization?
Is it possible for students to have a role in planning or implementing programs with this organization?
How would this work?
How do you think young people could play a larger role in helping this organization?
Once students have selected the project activity, invite them to brainstorm with the organization representative what they will
need to do in order to coordinate with the organization to accomplish the project. Have them assume responsibility for pieces
of developing the relationship with the partner.
taking time to reflect . . .
Youth Service America recommends that student reflection activities during the Investigation stage address and incorporate the
Why is there a need for your service?
Why is this issue important to the community?
What is being done to prevent this issue? What could be done to prevent it?
What is the purpose of the agency/organization with whom you have chosen to partner?
How does it contribute to the life of our community? What is its vision for the future?
stage two: preparation and planning
service and learning goals
“People should be involved in practical affairs to improve both the larger society and the lives of individuals . . . ”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
During the Semester of Service Preparation and Planning stage, youth will build their identified community need or priority into a
service-learning project. Preparation is where their role as change-makers will begin to be shaped. Whether you are a classroom-
based teacher or a community-based youth coordinator, YSA recommends that you enhance the learning outcomes for your
Semester of Service by incorporating intentional learning goals. The following pages include examples of intentional learning
connections – typical of the state-set academic standards in most states – for a variety of Semester of Service projects that might
be selected by students.
Use the blank chart following the sample projects - “Linking YOUR Semester of Service to Curricular Standards/ Learning
Goals” - to insert the project(s) your students have selected, and develop connections to your curricular or learning goals.
To help students understand that their Semester of Service project is an opportunity for them to take charge of their own learning,
encourage them to complete their own “Learning and Serving” chart on page 40.
The “Sample Project Timeline” on page 41 is designed to guide youth as they incorporate the Five Stages of Service-Learning
into an extended 70+ hour project.
The section concludes with a “project feasibility” checklist (“Is this Project Doable?”) for students to complete, on page 42.
In an effort to promote healthy lifestyles within the community, the Youth Health Team at the South Side Settlement House,
a recipient of a UnitedHealth HEROES Grant, created a communication plan. The Youth Health Team identified three key
messages they wanted to communicate and developed promotional strategies utilizing teen-oriented communication vehicles –
T-shirts, wristbands, drawstring bags, dog tags, stickers, pencils and/or pens, posters for schools, centers and message boards
around the community, Facebook and MySpace pages and text messages with healthy tips and words of encouragement
to peers. The group decided that success would be measured by the number of teens reached through the project, both
electronically and in-person.
“Youth Health Team”, South Side Settlement House, Columbus, Ohio
linking service to curricular standards/ learning goals 18:
Sample Service-Learning Project Curricular Standards/Learning Goals
Gardens for Low-Income Community Members Social Science Analysis:
Identify and analyze characteristics, causes, and
consequences of an event, issue, problem, or
While researching root causes and effects of poverty, students phenomenon.
learn about economics, botany and agriculture, and nutrition. Economics:
They create personal gardens for the benefit of low-income Know and give examples of how changes in the
economy impose costs on some and benefits
community members. on others because they arbitrarily redistribute
Demonstrate the knowledge and skills necessary to
make reasoned and responsible financial decisions
as a consumer, producer, saver, and investor in a
Health Education/Promotion of Healthy Eating:
Explain the components of a balanced diet and their
importance to growth and wellness.
Demonstrate the ability to advocate for personal,
family, and community health and safety.
Childhood Obesity Social Sciences:
Examine the various characteristics, causes, and
effects of an event, issue, or problem.
Youth learn about the lifelong health and disease risks caused Health Education/Promotion of Healthy Eating:
by poor eating and exercise patterns in childhood and the Demonstrate ability to analyze influences of culture,
impact it can have on families and society. They use media, technology and other factors on health.
Demonstrate the ability to advocate for personal,
technology to create a website for other students advocating family, and community health and safety.
for healthy eating and exercise habits, and advertise the Physical Education/Fitness:
website in flyers posted around their community. Demonstrate ways to achieve and maintain a
health-enhancing level of physical fitness.
Extend communication and collaboration with
peers, experts, and other audiences using
Investigate topics of interest and importance across
the subject areas, selecting appropriate media
sources, using effective research processes,
and demonstrating ethical use of resources and
Excerpted and adapted from Take Care of Oregon Days: 150 Service-Learning Project Ideas (SOLV, 2008)